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In this 200-year anniversary of Chinese in Australia, the newly established Lotus Garden at Springvale Botanical Cemetery opened with the honouring of Chinese Australian, David Neng Hwan Wang who settled in Melbourne in 1948 and became a civic and community leader and household name in the latter part of the 20th Century.
A bronze bust of David Wang was unveiled on Sunday 16 September 2018, and will appear central in the Feng Shui inspired garden adorned with Asian botanical and design features.
Jane Grover, CEO of Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust advised that Springvale Botanical Cemetery is committed to providing the appropriate settings recognising Melbourne’s diverse multicultural community.
Melbourne City Councillor Philip LeLiu (刘乐 | 市议员 | 墨尔本市政府) was part of the opening ceremony and remarked, “David Wang was the first Chinese-born Melbourne City Councillor elected in 1969, at a time when the White Australia Policy was still in force. David Wang changed the face of multicultural Melbourne paving the way for people like myself to follow.”
David Wang was born into a simple farming family in Haimen, Nantong, Jiangsu Province near Shanghai. In his late teens, he was swept up by the advent of the second world war. In 1942, David travelled to Australia as captain in the Nationalist Army as part of a Military Mission. The Chinese and Americans were joining forces, meeting in Melbourne, to find ways of halting the Japanese advancement into China and the Asia Pacific region.
“When visiting Australia my mother, Mabel Chen, and my father forged a symbiotic relationship when they met – a Gold Rush descendant who couldn’t speak Chinese meets a mainland Chinese Shanghainese who couldn’t speak English! Although both Chinese in appearance, they became a multicultural partnership - when the whole became greater than the sum of the parts,” said Mark Wang, son of David Wang, addressing the audience.
Mabel, whose grandfather came to Australia during the Goldrush in 1857 had a family that was well-established in Melbourne.
Within a decade from starting business, the business had moved to Little Bourke Street, Chinatown, importing all types of Chinese homewares that became fashionable over the next 3 decades that eventuated in having a chain of 18 “David Wang” retail shops and wholesaling to thousands of stores across Australia when Chinese goods were hard to import from China.
With this public reputation, a charismatic persona, sharp business acumen, and being active in community affairs, David Wang then ran and became a Melbourne City Councillor in 1969, changing the face of local politics.
He campaigned for a progressive city in the areas of beautification, extended shopping hours, and a multicultural city and argued that Chinese Australians were a bridge of friendship between China and Australia – obviously not realizing the impact what this relationship means today.
Unfortunately, he suddenly passed away after a stroke at the Chinese Professional and Businessmen’s Association New Year Ball in 1978 at the young age of 57.
Ahead of the trend of “The Asian Century”, David Wang was progressive and forward thinking –creating the basis for social change in Melbourne, now dubbed the World’s most liveable city.
Bill Au, Chairman of the Chinese Museum in Melbourne, joint organisers of today’s opening launch, commended Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust for their ongoing support of the Chinese Community in Victoria, Australia, by making people aware of the great contributions the Chinese have made to contemporary Australian Society over 200 years, through events like today.